Florida reports a record rise in child drownings for 2021.
In 2021, there were 98 deaths, up from 69 in 2020.
Florida hit a record in 2021, but it was not one that was wanted. The death rate for drownings had been going down consistently since 2009, until this year, where the deaths from drownings rose from 69 in 2020 to 98 in 2021. This is the most child drownings since 2009.
According to this report from The Florida Department of Children and Families. Florida “loses more children under the age of 5 to drowning than any other state in the nation.”
“Florida is hard hit says,” Joani Maskell, owner of Swimming Safari Swim School here in Jacksonville, “Because of all the water we have here. If you think about it, Florida is not only surrounded by water, but we have rivers, lakes, retention ponds, and because of our weather, so many families have pools in their backyard or the community they live in have pools.”
The city of Jacksonville is actively seeking solutions to retention ponds accessibility after three young children died in retention ponds in Jacksonville in a three-month span earlier this year. But there are so many other worrisome ways around our city and state that children can have access to water and potential drownings.
What can be done? Joani Maskell of Swimming Safari Swim School works firsthand with parents who are concerned for their children lives. She hears all the time how, “My child almost drowned.” It’s a common conversation I have with so many parents. They all say something like “I just took my eyes off for only a moment.” “Thank goodness,” says Maskell, “that the end result was that it just scared the parent, for the most part.” She thinks about the horror to a family if something actually does happen to their child.
This is why Maskell has started a community Outreach program, here in Jacksonville, as well as a scholarship program for families who can not afford swim lessons. The outreach program is primarily going to pre-schools and elementary schools, where she and her staff present an interactive water safety program to the children with water safety information to take home to the parents. “If we can get to the children to pull on the parent’s heartstrings, we feel parents will respond.” Says Maskell. If a PTA or an adult organization want a speaker, we can do this as well.
As to the Scholarship Program, this was started last year in memory of one of her first Instructors who passed away unexpectedly in 2020. “It’s the instructors that do all the work and I wanted this scholarship to be in honor of Eric Bass, one of our first & dedicated instructors.” A partnership with Hope Floats was established. Hope Floats Foundation is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent drownings by providing scholarships for swim lessons. Please visit here, for more information.
“Losing children to any cause, especially to drowning, is horrible.” Maskell said. “But drowning is preventable. “Please parents, don’t take your eyes off your children!”
Layers of protection are other ways you can prevent drownings:
The increase in deaths may have been contributed by the pandemic. We felt this way initially because when parents were working from home with the kids around, it was difficult to watch kids and to work, so kids would be more on their own and have unsupervised access to pools.
- Locks, Gates, & Alarms
- Keep your eyes on the children, and within arm’s reach around water
- Fences around a pool
- Swim Lessons- (can start as early as 6 months for infant survival)
Also, there is a worry of new people moving to Florida and really don’t understand the concern the water has. This is true of people visiting and staying in hotels and B&B’s where there are no lifeguards. Remember that drowning is silent. It’s not at all what it looks like in the movies. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke-7IQ28-Mw)
Please use all the layers of protection to help keep our children safe!